Louisville loses its 2013 national title, and it had to happen

As the son of a graduate of Louisville’s dental school and also as someone who grew up a Louisville fan – I’m a Kentucky alum, yes, but I was a U of L fan first – it pains me to say that this needed to happen. The NCAA has denied the Cardinals’ appeal to keep the NCAA title won at the Georgia Dome in 2013.

Never before has a Final Four winner seen the fruits of its victory vacated. But it was just yesterday that this correspondent advocated that the NCAA get serious about miscreants. Stripping a national title is serious.

Outraged ’Ville supporters will point to North Carolina’s 2005 (and 2009) titles and say, “What about them?” But the weakest of all defenses is to play the moral-equivalency game. Just because someone else (apparently) got away with something doesn’t mean you didn’t do wrong and deserve to be punished.

Louisville deserved to be punished. This penalty stemmed from the strippers-in-the-dorm case, among the seamiest of college basketball’s scandals. The dorm was Billy Minardi Hall, named for the Rick Pitino brother-in-law who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. The strippers were paid by a Louisville staffer. Pitino has said – and says to this day – that he knew nothing about anything. He remains the world champ of indignation, but he’s no longer the only man ever to lead two schools to a national championship. Not officially, anyway.

Louisville’s 2013 national championship, it must be said, was a stirring story. Pitino got Title No. 2 the day after he’d been named to the Naismith Hall of Fame. None of the Cardinals was a massive recruit. The Final Four MVP was Luke Hancock, a substitute who’d transferred from George Mason and whose father had terminal cancer. The Final Four focal point was Kevin Ware of Conyers, who’d suffered a compound fracture of his leg in the regional final and was ambulatory only via the use of crutches.

Now that banner will be removed. It’s harsh, but sometimes life is that way. Louisville did wrong then and has allegedly done wrong since. Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich were fired in September in the wake of the FBI’s investigation into recruiting and shoe companies. There’s a real chance Louisville could be hit even harder – it’s already on probation, remember – but whose fault is that?

The indictments and findings issued by the Feds told us what we’d known maybe without actually knowing – that college basketball had become a swamp. It’s time, ahem, to drain it. Stripping Louisville of its title is a necessary step. If you’re going to break rules, there must be consequences. This is a major consequence.